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Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1993 Jan;43(1):63-70.

Early effects and the possible mechanism of the effect of Concanavalin A (con A) and Phaseolus vulgaris lectin (PHA-P) on intestinal absorption of calcium and sucrose.

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National Institute of Nutrition, Indian Council of Medical Research, Hyderabad.


Food lectins are known to affect the absorption of nutrients in experimental animals and altered morphology of the intestinal mucosa due to prolonged feeding of lectins is suggested to be the cause. However, toxic symptoms appear in humans immediately after consumption of lectin rich foods and the mechanism of this immediate action is not known. This study reports the immediate effect of Concanavalin A (Con A) and Phaseolus vulgaris lectin (PHA-P) on the absorption of Ca2+ and sucrose in rat intestine and the possible role of lectin-membrane interactions in the process. Calcium absorption was lowered by Con A, and this was observed to be due to Con A interacting with the intestinal mucosal membrane. Similarly, sucrose absorption was also altered, probably due to Con A binding the intestinal mucosal membrane. On the other hand PHA-P did not have any effect on either sucrose or calcium absorption. Results indicate that the effect on intestinal nutrient absorption depends on the type of lectin used (and its concentration) as well as the type of nutrient, besides the duration of exposure of intestinal mucosa to the lectin.

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